Here’s what you can do about squirrels or raccoons in your yard

Aggressive Red Squirrel
Red Squirrel / Photo by Jean Labelle via Flickr

What’s the best way to discourage squirrels, raccoons and other small critters from making their home under your deck or in your backyard?

Before you set a trap or call an exterminator, here are a few tips for ways that you can humanely encourage the animals to “move along” from your property.

The idea is to turn their dark, quiet, safe den into one that is inhospitable. To do this, use three basic techniques (use all three at the same time):

  1. Noise – Place a battery-powered radio tuned to a talk station in the area
  2. Light – Place a flashlight or trouble light in the area as close as possible to the nest
  3. Odors – Sprinkle ammonia (available at grocery stores) on rags. Tie the rags into the size of a tennis ball, or put them in an empty margarine container with holes in the lid, and throw them close to the nest. Do not use moth balls as they are toxic.

For animals nesting under a deck or shed:

  • place a few rocks down the hole but do not block the entryway as you will trap animals inside
  • dig the hole a little bigger to imitate a predator
  • keep the area well mowed to prevent hiding spots
  • hang pie plates around the hole to startle the animal
  • put used cat litter or ammonia-soaked rags down the hole
  • put a crumpled piece of newspaper in the hole so you will know when the animal has moved out

Be persistent and imaginative, but patient and kind. If a wild mother’s den is turned into a noisy, bright, smelly environment, the mother should relocate her babies within a few days. Once you are sure the nest is moved, be sure to repair the entryway to prevent other animals from moving in.

Animal-proofing is best done in late fall. If you make animal-proofing part of your fall cleanup, you can avoid many wildlife problems, rather than dealing with them after the fact.

Here are some reasons why trapping and relocating wildlife is not a solution.

  • in Ontario, it is illegal to relocate wildlife more than one kilometre
  • trapping and relocating adults may leave babies behind to die from starvation and dehydration; babies left to die in inaccessible places in your attic, or under your step/shed, will result in bad smells and a lot of money for expensive repair jobs for homeowners
  • Relocated animals are at an extreme disadvantage in a new environment. They have to find food, water and shelter in an unfamiliar territory. There may be territorial disputes between the relocated animal and resident animals that can lead to injury and even death. Relocated animals may also spread disease to the resident wildlife population, therefore causing other animals to become ill and/or die.
  • the relocation site may not be a suitable habitat; eastern grey squirrels, black squirrels and red squirrels all have specific habitats
  • animals can suffer stress, injuries and even death trying to escape from traps
  • baited traps can attract domestic pets or untargeted wildlife (like skunks)
  • Improper use of a live trap, which results in animal suffering, could lead to animal cruelty charges through the Ontario SPCA Act.

Kerry Reimer is a volunteer with the Rideau Valley Wildlife Sanctuary. More questions? You can contact the sanctuary at 613-258-9480 or or visit Canadian Federation of Humane Societies to get more information specific to your problem.

 “Wild animals should not bear the blame and the consequences for following their natural instincts, when simple measures could have prevented a conflict.  The public should be aware that no method for the removal of wild animals from a home or property comes without the risk of suffering by the target or non-target animals.  Live trapping and exclusion methods can lead to the separation of young animals from their parents.  Lethal trapping methods can fail and result in protracted, painful deaths.

Why should a family of raccoons or squirrels be subjected to such risks, simply because of an unsecured garbage can lid?  The City suggests that prevention and toleration of occasional inconveniences is a more humane approach”
— City of Ottawa

Support Local Stittsville